Embraer appears to be leading the way among foreign business aircraft manufacturers looking to forge production partnerships in China. The Brazilian company secured an agreement with Avic last April to produce super-midsize Legacy 600s and 650 aircraft at Harbin in northern China through Avic subsidiary Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry Co. (HEAI).
For some years Embraer had an agreement with Avic to produce ERJ 145 regional airliners but production ended at the Harbin plant in May last year. However the same tooling, with some adjustments, will soon be used to make approximately 20 of the Legacy jets (derived from the ERJ 135 airliner) each year, targeted primarily at the Chinese market. “Production and administrative personnel are currently working on the preparation of the Legacy 600/650 production line,” Embraer China president Guan Dongyuan told AIN.
Last July, Embraer said first deliveries of Legacy 600/650s from the Chinese plant could start as early as late 2012. It is currently unclear if this schedule still holds.
The Legacy 600 and 650, which are both type certified by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), can each carry up to 16 passengers in standard configuration, which includes leather seats, sofa, credenza, tables, galley, aft lavatory, wardrobes and cabinets. Both also cruise at Mach 0.80. The Legacy 600 has an NBAA IFR range of 3,250 nm (6,015 km) with eight passengers, while the longer-legged 650 can fly 3,900 nm (7,218 km) with the same passenger load.
Last year, Embraer received several orders for the Legacy 650 from Chinese customers, including 13 from Minsheng Financial Leasing (MSFL), and one from movie star Jackie Chan, who is now an Embraer “brand ambassador.” Chan took delivery of his aircraft, adorned with dragons and with his personal logo emblazoned on the tail, early last month. The airplane was also the first Legacy 650 to be delivered into China.
Meanwhile, Embraer expects to hand over Minsheng’s first Legacy 650 in the first half of this year, with the remainder to be delivered over the next five years. Minsheng also signed an agreement in December for three of the airliner-sized Lineage 1000 jets, with deliveries of these airplanes slated to start this year.
Executive aviation has great potential in China, Dongyuan said. “It is predicted that from 2012 to 2021 the number of aircraft in the global executive fleet will increase by 11,275 units, worth $260 billion,” he noted. “The Chinese executive fleet will increase by 635 units worth $21 billion over this period, revealing China as one of the markets with the greatest potential.”
As of December 31, Embraer has held firm orders and options for 22 business jets from Chinese customers. To date, five aircraft have been delivered in China, including Chan’s Legacy 650.
To keep pace with the growing customer base in China, as well as in Asia in general, Embraer is building up its customer support and service capability in the region. Last month at the Singapore Airshow, the manufacturer appointed several new maintenance partners in the region and expanded relationships with current partners to cover the full line of Embraer executive jets. This includes its agreement with Hawker Pacific at Singapore Seletar Airport, which is the first Embraer-authorized service center (EASC) in the Asia Pacific area to offer full maintenance services for the entire Embraer executive jet line. The move added maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for the Lineage 1000 and the Phenom 300 to Hawker Pacific’s portfolio, which previously included the Phenom 100 and Legacy 600/650.
Through current EASC ExecuJet, Embraer announced a partnership with AirFlite last month to offer maintenance services for the entry-level Phenom 100 in western Australia, which extended MRO support for the Phenom light jet to the eastern part of the country. ExecuJet provides support for the Phenom 100 and 300 and the Legacy 600/650 at its facilities in Melbourne and Sydney in western Australia.
Embraer also forged a memorandum of understanding with Tokyo-based JapCon Inc. at the Singapore show to offer maintenance services to future Embraer executive jet operators in Japan. JapCon also has outlying facilities in Chubu and Okayama.
And, finally, Embraer tapped Indamer in India to provide MRO services for Lineage 1000s in the country. This complements Indamer’s pre-existing maintenance services for the Phenom 100 and Legacy 600/650.